This is one question we always ask our job interview coaching clients during the mock interview session because it is often the very first question an interviewer will ask during a job interview.
One of the challenges job applicants face when responding to this question is not knowing exactly what the interviewer will like to know and how to decide what is relevant for the role/interview.
Fundamentally, “Tell me about yourself” really boils down to “What do you want the interviewer to remember about you”. Answering this question effectively grants you the power to make an excellent initial impression and structure the rest of the interview to your benefit.
Your answers should talk about “who you are”, “why you are qualified” and “why you are interested in the role”. When responding to the question, ensure that your response satisfies the goal of the recruiter/company, which is invariably to determine if you are an excellent fit.
A few important things that will help you respond appropriately.
- Answering this question is an opportunity to market yourself as a qualified candidate and the most satisfactory answers are the ones that relate to the job you are interviewing for.
- Rehearse the “Tell me about yourself question” before the interview. Read through the job description during your preparation. It will show you the exact requirements and skills the recruiter is looking for.
- This question is not an invitation to tell the story about your private life, keep it professional.
- There’s no length of time for responding to this question but keep it as short as possible – long enough to provide all the information the recruiter needs and short enough to not bore him/her. One to two minutes long.
- This is not a call for you to go through your CV, point after point or section after section.
How to answer the “tell me about yourself question.”
Step 1: Tell the Recruiter “Who you are”: Focus on the qualification you have that will add value to the position in relation to the job description and ensure how you describe yourself interests the interviewer.
Example: I am a recent graduate with an MBA from Harvard University…OR I am a Chartered Accountant with 3 years experience…
Step 2: Tell the Recruiter, “Why you are qualified.”
Talk about what makes you stand out as a candidate and why they should hire you. Talk about your current role, your previous experience, any achievements and how it qualifies you for this role or knowledge that is relevant to this role.
Example: At my current job in the finance department of a manufacturing company, I maintain all financial accounts record, approve payment advice and prepare the financial statement and the balance sheet. I also serve as the internal auditor…
Step 3: Tell the Recruiter “Why you’re interested in the role.”
When responding to the question, focus on career advancement, and demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the sector, job role or organisation.
Example: I am interested in this job because… OR After spending X years with my current employer or after spending X years on a supervisor role, a managerial position like this one, is the next step…
Now, let’s bring it all together with an example of a rough response to the “Tell me about yourself” question
I am a Chartered Accountant with 3 years experience. At my current job in the finance department of a manufacturing company, I maintain all financial accounts record, approve payment advice, and prepare the financial statement and the balance sheet. I also serve as the internal auditor. Before that, I worked at an audit firm, where I managed audit engagements for various organisations in the construction sector.
And while I enjoy accounting generally, I’d love the chance to expand my experience in another industry, particularly healthcare, so I can familiarize myself with the various standards when it comes to accounting processes in the healthcare sector. This is why I’m so interested and excited about joining your organisation.
Note: This is just a vague idea/ guideline for what an Accountant could say. Make it better to suit your own experience and job description.
Whether you follow the steps above or not, make sure your response is tailored to the job description and what the company is looking for in 1 or 2 minutes, emphasise what qualifies you for the job.